It's safe to say no one quite sounds like Rochester, NY's most venerable band, the Colorblind James Experience. On their sixth album in 20 years, the band still sounds lyrically edgy, self-confident, and relaxed with their unique, offbeat brand of pop. Blending seemingly disparate music genres such as polka, ska, folk, jazz, soul, bluegrass, lounge, and even klezmer into a listenable album would seem -- at least on paper -- to be all but impossible, yet for the CJE, it's business as usual. Colorblind James' bone-dry, spoken/sung vocals -- somewhat comparable in approach to the similarly indescribable Dan Hicks -- feel as comfy as an old pair of jeans, and his low-key delivery is filled with self-deprecating humor and sly innuendo. He spins generally dark stories such as "I Hate the World Sometimes" and "'Bye Now Wish Me Luck" on top of effervescent tunes crackling with snazzy, yet understated horn charts. The deceptively simple arrangements are oblique, yet infectious and toe tapping. Along for the ride on this particular version of the ever-changing Experience is singer Rita Coulter whose deep, smooth lead vocals and duets with James bring a soulful approach previously lacking in older versions of the group. One of the most unusual "pop" bands to include a full-time trombone player, the album also features mandolin, trumpet, sax, and fiddle in support roles. But even though James writes odd, stirring, often humorous lyrics about evil doctors ("Dr. Negative"), stalking ("I Want to Know You"), and mental illness ("Lock Him Up!"), the upbeat music and sometimes hypnotic, repetitious, riff-based, jazz-tinged melodies ("Call of the Wild") keep the potentially depressing aspects of the words at bay. Like the tale about blind men feeling an elephant, each one describing it differently relative to which part of the animal they approached, the music of the Colorblind James Experience changes from song to song, and even within the same tune. That the sound fuses into a unified, distinctive, and timeless whole is a testament to the superior songwriting, idiosyncratic eclectic imagination, and charming unpretentious qualities of this talented band.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz